Legal aid woes extend overseas

An overseas expert will not be coming to Cayman for a criminal trial because the Cayman Islands Government has not paid his fees for two previous cases.

Attorney Edward Renvoize revealed the situation in Grand Court recently when dates were being set for case mentions and trials.

He said arrangements had been made for an accident reconstructionist to give a report for a case of causing death by dangerous driving. The defendant had been granted legal aid.

Mr. Renvoize said he received a message in mid-March from the expert, who said he had been unable to persuade his firm to allow him to act in the case. The reason given was that the firm was still awaiting payment from legal aid on an invoice from last year for over $13,000.

Further, the firm had been advised that payment was being processed for about $7,000, leaving the matter $6,000 in arrears.

The attorney quoted from the expert’s communiqué: ‘We cannot agree to wait for indefinite periods of time while legal aid mysteriously processes our invoices and without explanation cuts down the amount they will pay.’

Mr. Renvoize told Justice Ingrid Mangatal it was disgraceful that government could not afford to pay local attorneys who do legal aid cases and then, when work is done by overseas experts, simply not pay them or reduce payments without an explanation.

He pointed out that the Crown was not subject to the same constraints. ‘They instruct whom they wish and pay what rates they see fit. The defence are constrained to $135 per hour.’

Justice Mangatal said it sounded like a very serious concern that needed to be addressed. She also observed that, as a visiting judge, she was not the one to deal with it.

The matter was set for further hearing before a resident judge.

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